Boston College made a trio of 3-pointers to open its game with Virginia on Wednesday night, and that helped the hosts keep pace for the first six minutes when the score teetered back and forth to a 13-13 tie. The Eagles, however, cooled off after that hot start while the Cavaliers unleashed their diverse firepower to cruise to an 83-56 victory.
UVA (14-0, 2-0 ACC) ended up with six players scoring 7 points or more and four players in double figures. Starting forwards De’Andre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite poured in 18 points each, while Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy tallied 13 and 10 respectively. Braxton Key chipped in 9 points and Jack Salt added 7 more. BC (9-5, 0-2) simply didn’t have a solution defensively despite swapping schemes throughout the night.
“I thought offensively we had answers,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said after the game on the ESPN broadcast. “We had some versatility. Mamadi made some nice plays. … Definitely guys stepped up and we got a good lift from a number of players.”
Diakite indeed emerged in a big way in the win. He matched his career high with those 18 points and matched his season high with 7 rebounds too. The junior made 9 of 12 shots as he repeatedly slipped free for easy finishes around the rim. That loosened things up in the first half and thwarted Boston College’s ability to stick close to shooters. Diakite poured in 14 points in the first half, which included three dunks on assists from Jerome. The first one saw Jerome look away to the wing and then fire a diagonal pass down low to Diakite uncovered for the easy slam.
Diakite has scored 6 points or more in every game since the team returned from the exam break.
“That was helpful because Ty is going to get tracked hard and Kyle as we’ve talked about and De’Andre,” Bennett said. “I thought Mamadi made his athleticism show, but he made some nice moves and that was offensively helpful. He got on the offensive glass. He is I think an X-factor for us.”
As the statistics show, however, the Eagles didn’t really do a good job of tracking the three-pronged attack from Jerome, Guy, and Hunter either. Jerome and Guy each knocked down 4 of 9 shots to combine for 23 points. Plus, they dished out 9 assists with 5 of those coming from Guy to match his career high.
Hunter, meanwhile, made 6 of 11 shots including 2 of 3 3-pointers to get his 18 points. Much like Diakite countered BC’s defensive strategy in the first half, Hunter broke down the D in the second half. The Eagles had climbed within six points at 45-39 early in the second half when Hunter sandwiched a 3-pointer and a jumper around a Boston College bucket to make it 50-41 on the scoreboard. That second bucket sparked a 16-0 run as UVA held the hosts scoreless for 8:45.
Hunter had six points during that surge. Others had it going during that stretch too. Salt scored twice, for example, while Key added a layup after he blocked a shot and sprinted the floor for an uncontested layup.
“He’s versatile. I think we’ve got a number of those guys,” Bennett said. “He’s a triple threat guy where he can knock down the three, play off the bounce, score in the post, and get on the glass.”
The Cavaliers shot a sizzling 60% from the field (33 of 55) and 42.1% from 3-point range (8-19). On the flipside, the Eagles landed at 38.6% (22 of 57) and 28.0% (7-25). Nik Popovic led his team with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Ky Bowman added 15 on 5-of-12 shooting.
That allowed the Hoos to extend their nation-best road winning streak to 12 games. That includes 11 straight ACC road wins dating back to last season, the fourth longest string in league history. Still with some noticeable defensive breakdowns on drives and plenty of significant challenges ahead, Bennett knows his team must continue to improve.
“Defensively, we have some work to do. They missed some shots and they were touching the paint and splitting us and that’ll have to improve,” Bennett said. He later added: “I think in transition they were down the floor so fast and we were not back and set and they were getting some open looks. Then we were stretched and they were touching the paint. So we’ll have to certainly tighten those things up, but when you can learn in a victory that’s OK and there will be a lot to teach on the film.”